So, we’re getting lots of questions here about the dreaded Buffalo Gnat (little black biting gnats) that have graced our Hoosier springtimes these past few years. Yeah, those little buggers are bad this time of year. We have them, too. I lost 48 chickens in 3 days my first year due to those things. We’re getting better at dealing with them.
So, we have 100 4.5 week old broiler chickens on pasture right now in our chicken tractors. They are 8′x10′ and each are housing 50 birds each. We haven’t lost any but the chickens are made uncomfortable by their constant biting.
A couple tips to keep them from piling up on one another and smothering each other (which is how ours usually die indirectly from these bugs):
- Keep the number of chickens in a single group below 50 (fewer birds = fewer birds on the bottom of the dog pile = less loss).
- Mix a solution of 2 parts cooking oil to 1 part vanilla extract, use this to soak some rags 2 x daily, and hang several inside your coop or tractor. The vanilla extract really does keep the gnats at bay. Also, consider wiping some on yourself. Another option is to add this mixture to a backpack spayer and douse your tractors/coop and the chickens a couple times a day.
- keep the birds on shorter grass (shin to ankle high). seems like the gnats are more plentiful in taller grass (waist high).
- Check the birds right before dark, this is when the pile the worst because the gnats are most active right before dark. Scatter the birds if you can.
- Consider rounding the corners in your tractor and make sure it is on level ground. I always lost all my birds from them piling up in the lowest corner of my tractor when it was on a hill. Not having a corner and not having a low edge helps this out.
Follow some of these steps and you may very well get through this period of gnat hatch and activity. It’s tough, but you can make things better for them.
Best of Luck!